Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bibleworks 9: An Examination of John 3:3-8 Continued

Bibleworks 9: An Examination of John 3:3-8 Continued

[To read the Greek you can download the SBL Greek font here: SBL Greek.]

Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3 ESV)

ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν, οὐ δύναται ἰδεῖν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ. (John 3:3 GNT)

I want to continue the discussion of this passage of Scripture and show how Bible software like Bibleworks 9 can help you to study a passage, verse or word in Scripture with greater ease, comprehensibility, and depth than has been possible before. The above sentence spoken by Jesus is called a conditional sentence, which in syntactical terms is composed of a protasis and an apodosis. The protasis is the dependent clause indicating a condition which then results in consequence or apodosis. In English the protasis says, “unless one is born again . . .” The apodosis is “. . . he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

In Koine or New Testament Greek the protasis is “ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν . . .” and the apodosis is “οὐ δύναται ἰδεῖν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.Most original languages Bible software does the parsing for you. Your Greek New Testament professor will tell that this is cheating. When I studied Greek in college we learned the paradigms in J. Gresham Machen's beginning grammar. (Example of a verb paradigm or chart). This was helpful in recognizing the most common forms of articles, nouns, and verbs. However, sometimes Greek is ambiguous since a one form of a verb could be deponent or it could be middle voice. This is how parsing guides and popups become extremely helpful. At one time I relied on hardcover parsing guides to clear up apparent ambiguities. Now I can see these issues instantly with the software parsing window. Of course, the student should not take the parsing guides as infallible or inerrant. Feel free to critically examine the parsings and compare your insights with critical commentaries to see if others have questioned the standard parsings as you have. There are guidelines for doing exegesis in an objective manner but I tend to study ad hoc unless I am doing an exegetical paper or formal exegesis. One should realize that there is no such thing as total or absolute objectivity when doing anything scientific, including exegesis and textual criticism. That does not mean that the exegete should not attempt to remain objective during the study. He or she should not draw final conclusions until the end of the study although preliminary conclusions can be drawn during various steps of the process.

What is particularly helpful about Bibleworks 9 is the Resource Summary tab in the Analysis Window. When pointing to a verse of Scripture in the Browse Window click on the Resource tab in the Analysis Window and a complete listing of the verse references comes up. Any word pointed to is brought up in the Analysis Window as a list of lexicons, grammars, dictionaries, and commentaries where this Greek, Hebrew or English translation of the word occurs. For example, A.T. Robertson's A Grammar of New Testament Greek in Light of Historical Research will show up wherever the highlighted or hovered over word or verse occurs in Robertson. So if I want to find out what Robertson has to say about conditional sentences I can open Robertson in a separate window and look for that section of the grammar dealing with conditional sentences or I can look at what comes up with the Resource tab in the Analysis Window.

So when I look at Robertson I find that there is no direct discussion of John 3:3 in regards to conditional sentences. I can only look at the entire discussion of conditional sentences and the four classes thereof on pages 1004-1027. This saves much time in looking through a hardcopy of Robertson. Now I can simply focus on the general discussion by studying the two types and four classes of conditional sentences and figuring out how that relates to my exegesis. The same time saving principle applies to the other grammars. The easiest way to get the feel for these basic principle of Greek grammar and syntax is to review a more basic grammar or an intermediate grammar. Robertson's discussions are not for the faint hearted.

Wallace is perhaps a more useful summmary of Robertson's four classes of conditional sentences. Class three is ἐάν + the subjunctive mood and it can be used in any verb tense with the negative particle μή. (See Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, by Daniel B. Robertson. Included in Bibleworks 9). On page 682 Wallace says:

There is often a tacit assumption that the protasis of a condition indicates the cause and the apodosis tells the effect.

At any rate, when Jesus says that “unless a person is born again/from above” He is giving the condition for “seeing” the kingdom of God. This could be a metaphor for the kingdom of God as seen through the eyes of faith in the here and now but it might also have eschatological implications for what occurs after death in the final judgment. At any rate the cause of “seeing the kingdom of God” is having met the condition of being born again. Since the word for born again is in the passive voice it indicates that the person is being acted upon by an outside agent and not that the person is the cause of the action himself:

γεννηθῇ verb subjunctive aorist passive 3rd person singular from γεννάω

Notice the verb is in the subjunctive mood, aorist tense, and passive voice. We can tell all that because Greek is a formative language. That is we can tell the parts of speech from the formation of the words with prefixes and suffixes. I am being overly simplistic here but you get the point. The subjunctive indicates contingency or uncertainty from the human perspective. However, Wallace gives a necessary correction here:

The subjunctive is the most common of the oblique moods in the NT. In general, the subjunctive can be said to represent the verbal action (or state) as uncertain but probable. It is not correct to call this the mood of uncertainty because the optative also presents the verb as uncertain. Rather, it is better to call it the mood of proba­bility so as to distinguish it from the optative. Still, this is an overly simplistic defi­nition in light of its usage in the NT. (Ibid., 461).

Wallace's discussion of the passive voice bears this out as well:

III. Passive Voice
In general it can be said that in the passive voice the subject is acted upon or receives the action expressed by the verb. No volition–nor even necessarily awareness of the action–is implied on the part of the subject. That is, the subject may or may not be aware, its volition may or may not be involved. But these things are not stressed when the passive is used. (Ibid., 431).

That means that the word for “born” conveys the idea of the recipient being acted on from “above” or that he is born “again”. That's why Nicodemus asks how it is possible to be born a second time from his mother's womb? (John 3:4) Logically speaking such a thing could only be possible by the adult going back into his mother's womb and being born a second time. Therefore it is obvious that Jesus is speaking figuratively here and what He says is a spiritual reality that takes place by the means of faith or seeing through believing. This faith or seeing is impossible without a prior condition being fulfilled and the person himself cannot fulfill the condition. To do so would be as absurd as Nicodemus' proposed solution of re-entering the womb and being born a second time by natural birth. The text speaks for itself but the Arminian, the synergist and the semi-pelagian must read presuppositions into the text to make it say what it does not and cannot say, namely that the person's own faith causes God to regenerate the person who believes. But the text plainly gives the condition as preceding faith or seeing! Thus the Arminian must turn this verse upside down and backwards to make it fit with the theology of synergism and general grace. I will have more to say on this later.

As I said before this is not a formal exegetical paper so I will simply point out the highlights to show that the perspicuous reading of the text—even in English—clearly refutes the Arminian understanding of the new birth as subsequent to faith rather than the cause of faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).


P.S.  For the prior discussion  see:  Bibleworks 9:  Born Again

Reasonable Christian Blog Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost; Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen. 1662 Book of Common Prayer

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